Practical Test Part 1

Finally, my biggest day arrived today. My checkride (practical test) was scheduled for 9:00 AM, and I got to the airport about an hour early to get everything arranged.

I was told in advance to plan a flight from Tampa to Melbourne (MLB) to Gainesville (GNV) and back, although we wouldn’t be flying the whole thing. Since I’ve flown to Melbourne twice, I used my old plan for the first leg.

My flight instructor had another lesson, and stopped by while I was waiting for the examiner. He mentioned that there would be events today around Lakeland for the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In, so it would be a good idea to avoid that area. (A direct flight to Melbourne takes us within a couple miles of Lakeland.)

I knew the Fly-In officially starts tomorrow, but not that there was activity today. Since I’d read that the Lakeland airport will be the busiest in the world during the Fly-In, it seemed like a good idea to route myself well around that area. I was in the middle of revising the plan when the examiner walked in, right on time.

The first thing the examiner did was paperwork. He looked over my pilot’s license application and my logbook. I wrote him a check for $150 for his fee. We looked over the airplane’s maintenance logbooks to make sure it was legal, and he asked me a few questions about what inspections and maintenance are required. He gave me three tasks to do, and then left the room.

  1. Prepare a weight and balance for the two of us, to make sure we would be within the plane’s limits.
  2. Calculate the required landing distance for the airplane, based on the current weather.
  3. Get a weather briefing for the cross country flight, and finish the plan with that information.

I did the above, and then got the examiner. He looked over my answers, and asked a few questions about how I got them. So far, so good. Then we got into the heart of the oral exam. I was concerned earlier in the week that the standards for this part seem vague, since it’s not specified how many questions will be asked, or how many have to be answered correctly to pass. It’s up to the examiner to decide.

I’ve read that some examiners will make the oral exam very brief if the applicant did well on the written test, and that they like to focus on the weak areas. (The sheet with the written test results indicates the categories in which the student answered questions incorrectly.)

From reading the test standards, I knew that failing any task meant failing the whole test. When that happens, the test can continue only with the applicant’s consent (so that the retest can concentrate on the area that was failed). That meant that as long as I was not told that I had failed, I was still passing.

We went outside, and the examiner asked me some questions about the airplane while watching me preflight it. This was the easiest part of the day; following a written checklist, it’s hard to screw up the preflight.

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