Instrument Flight 45: Checkride, Part One

The good news today was that I passed the oral part of the practical test and won’t have to take it again. I was more concerned about the oral than the flying, because there’s a lot of material involved, more than I could study in a few days.

The oral exam lasted half an hour; part of that was reviewing the cross country flight I had planned. I was also asked to do a weight and balance calculation. We looked over the plane’s logs and paperwork to make sure that everything was in order.

Next I filed an IFR flight plan to Lakeland. I specifically asked if all the equipment (VOR, ILS, etc.) there was functioning, so that we would be able to do all the required tasks for the test.

I preflighted the airplane while the examiner watched. I did an instrument cockpit check, explaining how to test whether everything in the panel was working, then we took off. As soon as I put the hood on, nothing seemed to go right. We had intermittent radio problems; it seemed that Approach didn’t hear some of my calls and vice versa, but I managed to get my clearance and vectors for the ILS approach.

I was cleared for the approach and handed off to the tower, who said that the ILS may not be reliable since maintenance was in progress. The examiner said that it appeared to be working. Now I was in a real bind. How could I be cleared for an approach if the equipment it uses is unreliable? I couldn’t believe what was happening, and had no idea what I was supposed to do.

If it had been an instructional flight, I could have continued the approach and let the flight instructor warn me if the ILS signals led me astray. I thought it might be a trick to test my judgment. I thought that even if I flew the approach properly, I might have been told, “Your approach was fine, but you failed the test because you continued the approach after being advised that the ILS may be unreliable.”

I didn’t think I would be able to fly it properly anyway after being thrown off by that news, so I said I wanted to stop the test and take it again later. I thought I was allowed to do that at any time, but I was told no.

I never saw the localizer start to come in; by then, I wasn’t sure what to do about it, so I announced that I was going to do a missed approach. I didn’t hear any objection, so I started to follow the published instructions, which were to fly out on a certain radial to an intersection and hold there.

I was still outside the outer marker, and had never gone missed from way out there. The possibility of having to do that never came up in any of my training or reading. I learned later that I was supposed to fly to the runway before executing the missed. Apparently I was expected to think to tune in the VOR as a way to get myself to the runway, since I was assuming the ILS was unreliable.

I guess the way I handled the missed approach was enough to end the test and let us come back home. By then I was ready to abandon the whole idea of pursuing the instrument rating, since it seemed pointless. I said something to that effect as we were taxiing back in.

Apparently that comment made it back to my instructor, because he called me a few hours later and calmed me down. The examiner will be unavailable the rest of the month, which is fine, since it will be a while before I’m ready to subject myself to this again.

I didn’t bother logging the flight. For one thing, I don’t know how long it was, because by the time we got back I didn’t notice the time. (That’s why there are no hours listed for today.) It was probably about half an hour, but I don’t want it in my logbook anyway.

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