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Before I forget the details, I have to put this on record.

My Private Pilot certificate checkride happened on November 2nd 2007 and this is a brief description of my experience.

Needless to say, there is a tremendous amount of effort required to get through the training. From my perspective, I had three major stages in the training. The first solo flight, the knowledge test (during the time you are busy doing the cross country and night flights) and all of that leads you to the final checkride. It took me one year and 2 weeks to do all that.

I was very fortunate to have Tom as my instructor. He has this unique way of taking you through the sessions exactly in the way you would learn them the best. He is a safety natzi and has an amazing eye for detail. I particularly enjoyed the discipline he brought to the training.

The Checkride itself was supposed to happen a week earlier but because of weather, was postponed to November 2nd. Tom scheduled it with “Mary Crittendon” who is an amazing person and an excellent checkride examiner. If she walked past you anywhere, you can never guess that this thin and frail looking lady could have decades of flying experience. She solo’d years before I was even born.

The Flight Plan Assignment
She called me an evening prior to the checkride and gave me the following cross country to plan –

You have to fly alone from Portland-Hillsboro airport (KHIO) to Woodland (W27 – *very* short field) and pickup 3 people from there weighing 180, 190 and 140 Lbs. Takeoff from there and then fly north to Hoquim (KHQM).

That might sound just fine to a non-pilot. The complication in the plan are the following –

* The flight leg from KHIO – W27 is fine. I can fly the plane alone without worrying about the weight of the plane even with full 53 gallons fuel.

* Once I land at W27, the trouble begins. Because I am picking up 3 heavy people, I would cross the gross weight and won’t be able to takeoff in the available runway length. Also, there are no fuel services available at W27 so my only choice was to start from Hillsboro with less fuel but just enough fuel to be able to reach Woodland and then onward to Hoquim.

* I made all calculations and figured out that to takeoff with the 3 passengers, I could not carry more than 24 gallons of fuel. So I had to start from Hillsboro with 28 gallons of fuel, burn about 4 gallons on the way, land at W27 and then see how far I can go towards Hoquim from W27.

* Did all the calculations and instead of doing W27 to Hoquim direct, decided to take a fuel stop at Astoria (KAST), fill up back to 24 gallons and land at Hoquim.

So the final flight plan would be –

KHIO – W27 (Pickup 3 passengers)
W27 – KAST (Fillup to 24 gallons)
KAST – KHQM

I marked the path on a chart, made detailed weight and balance + fuel calculations on separate sheets, three flight plans for the three flight legs, wind numbers, sigmets / airmets, Metars for all the related airports along the way and rest of the paperwork for the certificate application.

I started working at around 4.30pm and was done by 10.30pm after which I just could not sleep till 1.30am. It took a lot of effort to catch some sleep and then woke up at 6.30am to head to the airport.

The Checkride Day
Had a decent breakfast and reached the airport by 8.10am. Arranged all the paperwork and then tried to mug up the last minute details from the study material.

The Oral Test
Mary arrived sharp at 9am. She started with talking about things in general. About why I was doing the flight training and what her experience was. She did a very good job of calming down my head which was racing like a horse. Then she looked at the paperwork and started with the questions.

Some of the questions –

* What type of inspections are required for the airplane we are flying today?
* What are the pitot-static instruments? What are the other 3 instruments?
* How does the turn co-ordinator work? Which other instruments use the gyroscope?
* What if you lose electrical power, which one of those gyroscopes won’t work?
* How about the vacuum pump? What is that for?
* How do you get out of a spin?
* How does a spin happen?
* If you are taking off, staying in the pattern and making a climbing right turn and you are not co-ordinated, which side do you think the stall will break?

Flight Plan
I was able to convince her how / why I planned the flight plan the way I did. She agreed with my decision to pick more fuel at Astoria instead of stretching it to Hoquim over the mountains.

* Then she asked a few questions about a few symbols on the chart (which I knew)
* She checked for the FSS frequencies and how can they be found on the chart.
* She checked for the ground reference points I had picked and confirmed how we could track the path in some of the difficult portions.

* Then she gave me a few more tips about how a chart could be used for almost any type of information about airports, terrain, etc. Of course that included her going into tangents with stories about how she used to fly “VFR” in pitch dark over the mountains and it was perfectly legal in FAA rules.

After a few more questions about charts, etc. she said “Lets go fly”.

That was the moment when I knew I was through because I was not at all worried about the flying. If I could pass through the Oral, I was almost done. A strapled a smile on my face and proceeded to the airplane.

The flight Test
The pre-flight was fine. She asked me about the various antennas on the airplane and Tom had told me about them just a few days back. We took off from Hillsboro with a soft field takeoff (which went perfectly) and she asked me to fly towards Woodland but not descend to land but just spot the airport. I did well on the navigation and the time / fuel calculations and as soon as we were over Woodland, she asked me to divert to Vernonia (05S). Did the usual diversion procedure and within 15 mins we were around Vernonia but it took me a few minutes to spot the airport but I found it in one try.

Once done from there, we did some basic maneuvers –

* Slow flight at 70kt
* Slow flight at 60kt (then do a 360 deg turn without changing altitude or speed)
* Slow flight at 45kt (do another 360 deg turn without changing altitude or speed)
* Power Off Stall right from that setup
* Recover and a Power on Stall immediately after
* The two steep turns (left / right) and then she asked me to put the hood on
* She asked me track towards the Newberg VOR while she handled the radio calls. Once we were in the West Practice Area, she asked me to do turns around a point
* While I was descending to 1200ft for the turns, she pulled the power out for an engine failure. Handled that fine with all the radio calls, etc.
* At 700ft, she asked me to recover and continue to the turns around a point
* Did two turns and she asked me to head back to Hillsboro and give her a soft field landing
* The soft field landing was good
* She then said “Now give me a good short field landing and we will park”. She actually repeated that twice.

* I aimed for the huge landing zones on the runway and nailed it but forgot to tell her what touchdown point I was aiming for. She thought I was aiming for the runway number marking (which are much before the touchdown point). I touched down and stopped fine. She later said I could have used a little less landing distance but then I did not say anything to her.

She said it was very nice flying. We parked and she said come on in, I will sign your logbook and give you a temporary certificate.

And that was the 4 hr long checkride.

Next aviation related goal is to get signed off for all different types of airplanes at the school. That includes the Complex – Cessna 172RG (retractable gear and variable pitch propeller).