A Most Memorable Checkride!

Here are some words of advice from the late Dave Gwinn

There are three kinds of Private Pilot Checkrides (just as there are 3 kinds of speeches you make: the one prepared, the one you actually gave, and the one you give in the car on the way home).  So when preparing for your Private Pilot Checkride anticipate the three possibilities.  There is the perfectly executed by the book that you and your instructor planned; there is the performance that you gave.  And then there is the tongue-in-cheek checkride that I told you about.  If you give the tongue-in-cheek performance you may be inscribed in the memoirs of pilot examiners and perhaps become a legend in student pilotship. 

Pilot examiners are usually gentlemen or perfect ladies and this makes them vulnerable.  And they are generally helpful.  Most really want to help you pass your checkride.  The tongue-in-cheek performance will leave you beyond help!

The examiner will expect that you arrive on time and be as skittish as an abandoned fawn.  Do not be late!  Show up with a flowing white silk scarf and dark mirrored sunglasses (do not remove the sunglasses), and announce that you have arrived by flipping your logbook on his desk.  We all know that real pilots wear big watches – if his does not measure up comment that it is inadequate.

He/she will need to inspect your logbook, test results, medical, etc.  And you should ask to see theirs.  Explain to them that it is illegal for you to carry a passenger and that you want to be sure he/she is a properly rated flight instructor.  You should also check that the examiner has a current flight review and maybe you ask for a random drug test!

You need to stay in charge of the checkride – not the examiner.  Start on the oral exam.  There will likely be a few questions that you do not know the answer.  Here are a few standard replies to those:  “My instructor said that wasn’t important” or “My instructor said you’d ask me some petty question like that”.  Here are a few more that may get you out of a bind: “Anyone knows the answer to a simpleton’s question like that” or “Let’s move on to more important material”. 

Once the oral exam is complete you’ll move on to the flight portion and that is where you will show that you are the master of the aircraft.  You will probably preflight the aircraft and the examiner will arrive and hop in once you are seated.  When he/she arrives ask “Did you check the oil?”  The examiner may reply that he/she did not and that it is your responsibility to do so.  You reply “Of course it is”.  And go on to explain that you did but if I were riding with a student pilot I would have double-checked…Safety first!

Once the engine is started and you are ready to taxi you instruct the examiner to handle the radios after all you are pilot in command.  If/when the examiner objects tell them that you are disappointed that he/she cannot do such a minor task.  You may use a line like “Whatever! Since the FAA is stressing good cockpit resource management it only seemed proper for me to delegate some of the workload.  But I will fly in whatever haphazard environment you find acceptable”.

And instead of using the standard “Roger” on the radio, try “Roger Dodger” or even “Rodney”.  Tell the tower you are ready to leap airborne and bore holes in place of just saying you’re ready for takeoff. Once airborne call out “Positive rate of climb, gear up” and watch the examiner look for the gear handle in your Cessna 152.  When he/she does say “Gotcha”.

When asked to do a departure stall, wrinkle your brow and ask why.  Explain to him/her that only an incompetent pilot would ever do such a thing and that it’s opposed to your personal standards but you will comply if it is necessary.  Now comes the stall.  Pull that stick way back – get the nose up at about 30 degrees and wait.  When it stalls yell “You got it!”  There is no doubt that the examiner will be shocked but his/her instinct to preserve his life will take over and recover from the stall.  When questioned why you did what you did reply “You only asked for a stall, you said nothing about me recovering.  Wasn’t that a beauty!”  When you observe the examiner hyperventilating display your aeronautical experience and hand them a paper bag.

Your sarcasm does not let up.  When asked what turns the aircraft answer “Mother Nature does, the ailerons are a signal to her”.  And the throw open your window and yell “I always try to touch her face”.

In the old days it was a bit of a tradition for the examiners to try and use their foot to turn the fuel valve off to simulate an emergency.  Super-Glue it in the “on” position!  By this time you will be in the practice area and the examiner probably turned down the volume on the radio.  While he/she is distracted with the fuel valve you turn off the radio.  When he/she finally gets the fuel shut off and the engine sputters grab the microphone and say “MAYDAY! MAYDAY! MAYDAY! ENGINE FAILURE!” and hand him/her the paper bag again. 

Part of your checkride will be done under the hood and my advice here is simple: A peek is worth a thousand scans of the instrument panel.  Drill holes in the hood or foggles and shake your head if needed to reposition it.  And if you feel a little sick from the unusual attitudes and a barf is coming – Eyes right is the guidelines.

This may not be a long checkride but it will be memorable.  You’ll be heading back to the airport soon.  Once on final call “Gear down and welded” and when the examiner looks for the gear handle say “Gotcha again!”  If you are low on final tell the examiner that you know you are low but thankfully you have your speed to a minimum to compensate. If you’re high say “Yes I know I’m high but I am also fast to make up for it”.  If you bounce a few times on the landing ask the examiner if this counts for your 3 landings in 90 days to be current to carry passengers.

Once you receive your pink slip, display it proudly for you have earned it!

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